Canuck alumni and Langley Knights coach and GM John Craighead

Celebrities pitch in for ‘good cause’

A celebrity softball game is being held at the annual Slo-Pitch tournament in Aldergrove this weekend.

A celebrity softball game is being held at the annual Slo-Pitch tournament in Aldergrove this weekend.

Come to Parkside Elementary ball diamond at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday to watch numerous Canucks alumni like Cliff Ronning, Garth Butcher, Xmen actress Katie Stuart, UFC fighter Jason Dooms Day and many more hit one out of the park, all for the cause of helping abused children.

Sexual abuse survivor Andy Bhatti has played in the slo-pitch tournament for years and thought what a great way to spread awareness and raise money for a worthy cause.

“Lots of people ask why do this in Aldergrove? I put together this many celebrities, but I think Aldergrove is the best place. It’s my own town and this is where awareness is needed,” said Bhatti, a recent recipient of the Courage to Come Back Award in the addictions category.

Bhatti was sexually abused by his Big Brother when he joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley at the age of nine.

His abuser was later convicted for abusing two boys in Kamloops. But Bhatti never told anyone about the abuse and instead escaped his reality by using heroin. He found himself living in the Downtown Eastside because ‘that was a place I wasn’t being judged and where I felt comfortable.’

Now nearly nine years clean, Bhatti has made it his mission to spread awareness and provide support to other survivors. He started up his own non-profit Survivors Supporting Survivors. He is now a certified interventionist and is helping abuse survivors and addicts get the help they need.

Canucks alumni like Langley’s John Craighead will join UFC fighter Jason Dooms Day, Just 4 Laughs comedian Darcy Michaels and Stuart (who played Kitty in Xmen) among other celebrities who will play in the charity game.

Following the game people can meet the stars and get their autograph by donation as well as participate in a silent auction and raffle prizes including a 55 inch TV donated by Langley Chrysler, $700 bike from Cranky’s and a Jose Canseco bat.

There are an estimated 50 ball teams playing in the Aldergrove tournament that goes all Saturday and Sunday.

Bhatti figured with this many people at the park it was a great opportunity to raise awareness about sexual abuse and to raise money for Sophie’s Place, the first centre in B.C. of its kind to provide wrap around services to children who suffer trauma like sexual abuse.

Bhatti continues to advocate for children who have experienced sexual abuse. Hearing from a victim of abuse in Newfoundland, Bhatti will be biking across that province on July 25 to Aug. 8, spreading awareness and funds to help sexually abused children. Currently Newfoundland has no victim services and the nearest help for kids is in Ontario, said Bhatti.

“Every province should have a centre like Sophie’s Place,” said Bhatti.

Here in B.C., Sophie’s Place offers compassionate services under one roof and was the only one of its kind in the province. Seeing its success has led to one recently opening in Maple Ridge and five more expected to open in B.C.

Sadly, this service is much in demand.

One in three girls are sexual abused and one in five boys.

The Internet has created all sorts of new young victims, said the Centre for Child Development’s Judy Krawchuck. The Centre is connected with Sophie’s Place.

Child luring and sexual explotation through the Internet is a growing problem in B.C., said Krawchuck.

For Bhatti, who is a trained interventionist as well as being trained in prevention, he usually gets around 10 men contacting him after he holds an event to say they were also sexual abused as a child but they have never said it publicly.

“I can refer them to get help. Once they get counselling, their relationships get better and they can see this wasn’t their fault and that they aren’t alone.”

To find out more about Bhatti’s organization go to supportingsurvivors.ca or to donate to Sophie’s Place through his ride in Newfoundland go to http:/bit.ly/RideMilesforSmiles

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